Archive for Tubenoses

Northern Fulmars 7/24/18

Although they look very much like gulls, Northern Fulmars belong to the tubenose family which includes the shearwaters, albatrosses, and petrels. More specifically they are known as one of the 2 fulmarine petrels. The nasal passages attached above their bills are called naricorns which also have a specialized gland to help them excrete salt. You’ll only see these birds far out to sea where they are quite abundant and frequently scavenge behind fishing boats. Unlike any gull, they can also dive up to 10 feet underwater in pursuit of fish and squid. They come in both light and dark morphs and breed on remote cliffs. These were photographed near the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland.


Northern Fulmar 6/9/14


Northern Fulmars are pelagic birds that look like gulls but really aren’t. They belong to the order of tubenoses—several bird families having tubular nostrils or naricorns—including albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters. Most Northern Fulmars are light-morphed like this one, though a few of those I saw were a darker and more uniform gray. They commonly scavenge behind fishing boats for offal, and can dive up to a few feet for shrimp, squid, and fish.


Sooty Shearwater 6/28/12

Taken the same day as yesterday’s pic, a Sooty Shearwater joined the gulls following the boat around John’s traplines off MacKenzie Point, but unlike the gulls, this bird can dive for discarded bait. For such a pelagic bird, it’s very unusual to see one this close inshore. With the greedy gulls, it fluttered around on long pointy silver-lined wings and just a stub of a tail, but we didn’t really get to see its shearing flight pattern so reminiscent of its tubenosed cousins, the albatrosses. Shearwaters are amazing migrants, traveling alone for the most of the year in a great circle around the North and South Atlantic, breeding in the Southern Hemisphere during our winter, and there are similar populations with similar habits in the Pacific. Only in good light and close up does the chocolate plumage really come out, unfortunately not well enough in this pic to do it justice.